The Chief's Daughter
1967 edition cover




Short story



Historical era

Bronze Age


Victor Ambrus


The Eleanor Farjeon Book, 1966; Heather, Oak, and Olive, 1972

The Chief's Daughter is a short story for children written for the 1966 Hamish Hamilton anthology The Eleanor Farjeon Book, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone. It was published separately in 1967 in Hamish Hamilton's Antelope Books list, with illustrations by Victor Ambrus. It is the first of three stories in the 1972 collection Heather, Oak, and Olive.

In Bronze Age Wales, a young girl rescues a prisoner bound for human sacrifice.


Nessan, ten-year-old daughter of the chief of a Bronze Age dun on the Welsh coast, has already saved the life of Dara, a twelve-year-old Irish raider, with the sacrifice of a glass bracelet to the Black Mother, the standing stone her people worship. But when the stream fails, Laethrig the priest realises that Dara must be sacrificed to the Black Mother after all.

Nessan cuts Dara's bonds and sneaks him out the back smoke vent of the hut in which he is imprisoned, and shows him how to escape down the now-dry cliff-face. When his escape is discovered, his guard Ishtoreth is on the hook to replace him as the sacrifice – until Nessan confesses and steps up to take his place.

On the moors, Dara stumbles across the Black Mother, in front of whom an Irish spear has been cast into the stream as an offering by a passing raiding party. Leaving his provisions in exchange, Dara takes the spear, thereby loosening the debris that had dammed the stream around it.

Nessan, over the protests of the Chief, is about to take the sedative drink in preparation for sacrifice when the villagers catch the sound of the returning water. Laethrig puts off the ceremony until after he has conferred with the goddess, and concludes that the willingness to die was an acceptable sacrifice to the Black Mother. Nessan is spared.


"The Chief's Daughter" is set in the Bronze Age – Dara's Irish spear has a bronze pommel – but is otherwise temporally imprecise. Nessan and Dara's languages are mutually intelligible.


  • Nessan
  • Dara
  • Laethrig
  • Ishtoreth
  • The Black Mother


  • Wales
    • The Dun
    • The Black Mother
  • Ireland

Publication historyEdit

In English

  1. The Eleanor Farjeon Book: A tribute to her life and work, 1881-1965. Ed. Naomi Lewis, illus. Edward Ardizzone. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1966.[1][2]
    • A Book for Eleanor Farjeon: A tribute to her life and work, 1881-1965. New York : H.Z. Walck, 1966.[3]
  2. The Chief's Daughter. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1967.[4]
    • Braille. North Rocks, N.S.W. : Royal N.S.W. Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, 1995.[5]
  3. Heather, Oak, and Olive: Three Stories. New York : Dutton, 1972.[6]
  4. Heather, Oak, and Olive: Three Stories. Philadelphia : Paul Dry Books, 2015.[7]

In translation

  1. Die hoofman se dogter. Afrikaans by Ria du Toit. Kaapstad : John Malherbe, 1969.[8]
  2. Die Tochter des Häuptlings. German by Elisabeth Epple. Bonn : Hörnemann, 1971.[9]
  3. Merch y pennaeth. Welsh by Gwen Pritchard Jones. Llandysul : Gwasg Gomer, 1983.[10]
  4. Mittsu no kanmuri no monogatari: Hisu oku oribu. Japanese by Shiro Yamamoto.[11]

References Edit